The Onion On My Internet Belt

Today I’ve got something different for you: A guest post! My friend Kara and I have been talking music via twitter for years. When I posted my recent mixes of strange things I had come across in the previous year, Kara asked to chime in and I was glad to hear her thoughts. So, without any further ado…

Stuck in a Post-punk Rut
By Kara Martinez Bachman

I’ve been following Cory on social media for many years. Throughout those years, he’s always impressed me with his interest in–and passion for–music. Whether he’s sharing Twitter photos of the vinyl he’s spinning that day or blogging his latest music playlist, Cory stands out in my mind as a real music aficionado.

Recently, one of his blog posts caused me to ponder my music tastes of late, and truly realize how as each year passes, I become more and more resistant to new music. Cory impresses me with his willingness to stretch his tastes into various genres, and with the breadth of his collection, spanning from pop to classical.

He made me ask the question: why am I so set in my ways?

I, too, still own some of my old vinyl. I’d made the dire mistake of selling most of it off for a quarter apiece sometime in the late ‘90s (Why? WHY?), but I’ve still got a hundred or so of the old records that were either too obscure or too unpopular for the garage sale bargain-shoppers to snag (oh yes indeed, they went after my Prince and U2 with a vengeance).

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When I recently spent some time sorting through and reading the liner notes on the old albums of thirty years ago, I was struck by how little my tastes have changed over the years. Back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, I’d always loved what was on college radio — XTC, Siouxie and the Banshees, The Cure. Now it’s called “post-punk,” but of course, back then, we just called it “good.”

I’m not sure what attracted me. I could relate to the sometimes tech-infused melancholy of Dark Wave, and loved the aesthetic of the British New Wave and New Romantic movements. I enjoyed the popular and sometimes-maligned stuff (Duran Duran, Depeche Mode) as well as the lesser known aspects that lurked at the edges, at least here in the U.S. (think Echo and the Bunnymen, Aztec Camera).

As I looked over these old records, I realized how little has changed. I don’t have the time to listen to music much anymore. As a writer, I can’t work with the background distraction of music. But when I do, the playlist is sure to be from the more calming side of the old Dark Wave genre: Cocteau Twins. The Cure. New Order. Perhaps some Morrissey tossed in for good measure.

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Unlike Cory–who has obviously stayed open over the years to a wide-ranging, eclectic playlist–anything “new” on my playlist somehow hearkens back to the same styles I used to love.

For instance, I’ll listen to Muse, which often has a symphonic post-punk sound and sometimes reminds me of Queen. I’ve enjoyed The Killers, which — let’s be honest — may as well be The Cure had Robert Smith been born into Mormonism. In perhaps the weirdest of the recent choices, I’ve got music by Adam Lambert, who at times feels like a fun throwback to the over-the-top pop years of the 1980s. Likewise, I actually like a few songs by Pink. But sadly, that’s the extent of my interest in this decade’s music.

In every case, I find my tastes looking back in a straight trajectory to the late 1980s. Never looking forward, and rarely glancing to the side. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate jazz and blues more, but I’m for the most part an old fogie. Kinda closed, and jealous of those who can stretch themselves into the nooks and crannies of music instead of always walking down the same exact aisle.

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I wish it weren’t so. I wish I could embrace the new, or, at least, the “new to me.” But I’m set in my ways. I’m like the older people we grew up with, who tuned into the “golden oldies” stations that reminded them of sock hops. Except for me, the sock hops would be all-ages local punk shows, or high school dances where everybody flooded the floor when “Don’t You Forget About Me” came on.

I’m not ashamed of my penchant for nostalgia, but recognize its limitations. I wish my playlist were more inclusive. A little more like Cory’s.

Kara Martinez Bachman is author of the new humor essay collection, Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-Mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women and Careening into Middle Age published by Quill Driver Books. Her work has been heard on NPR radio and has appeared in dozens of publications, including The Writer, Funny Times, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Find out more by visiting Karamartinezbachman.com.

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